Pacific Counter is St. Pete’s ridiculously fresh fusion of chef-inspired cuisines and cultures, serving up a mainland mix of coastal classics in the form of beautiful sushi bowls and giant sushi burritos. This customer-crafted eatery is a true pole-to-bowl, hook-to-hand and farm-to-face experience, served in an environment that inspires healthy eating, drinking, thinking and being.
“You will see that we are doing things differently,” says owner Tanner Loebel. “The clean, bright space, and the fun foreground music playing are purposely designed to promote good vibes! The friendly service is unexpected, but very welcoming. The food and beverage offerings complete the total experience at Pacific Counter.”
Pacific Counter, located at 660 Central Ave., is a passion project amongst three friends from different backgrounds who wanted to collaborate on a simple premise of serving really good food while making people happy. Since opening in September 2018, the team at Pacific Counter has been doing just as they set out to do, quickly establishing themselves as a must-visit spot on the St. Pete dining scene.
The idea came to be when Loebel, a multigenerational St. Pete native, developed a slight addiction to sushi burritos, which he discovered during time he spent traveling after selling his previous company FOODNOW in early 2017.
“It was actually very similar to how FOODNOW came to be. I really wanted something that wasn’t available yet here in St. Pete, so I decided to try and bring it here myself,” says Loebel. “I knew what I wanted to do, but also knew there was no way I would attempt to do this on my own. So I imagined who would be on my dream team if I could have anyone as partners, and somehow the two people I wanted on my team said yes right away.”
Eric Bialik and Chef Chitthasack Noythanongsay are the two Loebel had dreamt about having on his team, and they joined forces to become his partners in what would eventually become Pacific Counter. Bialik, born in San Diego but a Floridian since childhood, had made a name for himself in the Tampa Bay community during his time running two local favorites, Ciro’s Speakeasy and Grille One Sixteen.
“The daily grind of operating a 7,000-square-foot upscale restaurant with multiple dining rooms and a catering program had really taken a toll on me mentally, physically and emotionally,” Bialik explained. “When Tanner introduced me to Chef Tock, sharing with us his thoughts about what he wanted us to do with such energy and optimism, I was all in.” Bialik wants Pacific Counter to be just as well-known for its over-the-top friendly and well-informed service as for anything else in the restaurant. He believes this is an element that is often overlooked in a fast-casual environment, but that is simply not fair to the guest.
Chitthasack Noythanongsay, more commonly known as Chef Tock, has been a longtime staple in the Tampa Bay sushi scene. He has worked behind the sushi bar, contributing his skills to some of the area’s most popular restaurants, such as Sushi Alive, Zen Bistro, Samurai Blue, Sushi Rock Grill and Roy’s.
Chef Tock made it to St. Petersburg with his family in the 1980s as refugees from Laos, and he has been a part of the community ever since. “The sushi industry is very traditional, so the opportunity to change the game, and offer a fresh approach to sushi and the way it’s presented, has been amazing!” Tock says. Pacific Counter’s chef is dedicated to serving the highest quality products possible, at a price point nobody can offer at a traditional sushi restaurant.
So how is the Pacific Counter experience different from the typical sushi bar? Upon entering Pacific Counter, patrons are met with ‘Alohas’ from friendly faces behind the counter. Once they get to the counter they can choose whether they want to roll it or bowl it, as these are the two vessels in which they can load their ingredients into. They can then select one of Chef Tock’s Counter Creations or build their own, which has proven to be the most popular option.
“The build-your-own experience is what Pacific Counter does really well, and a favorite of our guests,” Loebel says. “The process ensures each guest gets exactly what they desire, each time they visit.”
The ordering journey takes guests down a line filled with more than 50 fresh and colorful options, topped off with one of their eight house-made sauces. In addition to the rolls and bowls, Pacific Counter offers traditional sides such as miso soup, seaweed salad and edamame. The restaurant also features quite an impressive lineup of drinks, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic, that seem to be almost as in-demand as their food offerings.
Pacific Counter is celebrating summer happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m. daily with 50% off all draft beers, draft kombucha, sake slush, Frostee Kirin and frozen sake bombs.
Oh, and don’t forget about that delectable pineapple soft serve, Dole Whip.
Follow @Pacific_Counter on social media and go to PacificCounter.com for more info.